Friday, October 31, 2008

The Parliamentary Press Gallery is whining…again

The parliamentary press gallery is whining over the practice by Prime Minister's Office of compiling advance lists of media organizations who want to question Prime Minister Harper at news conferences.

Apparently, Harper rarely sits down in the National Press Theatre to answer questions—there, journalists serve as moderators and questions are asked on a first-come, first-served basis. The PM seems to prefer the foyer of the House of Commons, where his aides take names but apparently offer no guarantee of the order in which he will call on reporters—or even that he’ll call on everybody on the list.

The policy was instituted two years ago, and at that time the Prime Mininster’s Office said it wanted to preserve decorum and avoid disorder.

Sounds like a good idea to me. But the press gallery are like a bunch of spoils brats: it’s their way or no way. According to The Canadian Press:

“A number of news organizations, including The Canadian Press, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star, have protested the rules by refusing to put their names on the PMO list of questioners.

“The CBC, which usually boycotts the list as well, participated Thursday—but said it did so only because a PMO staffer assured its reporter that every organization on the list would get a question.”

Get over it people; just do your jobs. Who says you get to make all the rules.

CRTC at it again

Once again, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will levy a new $0.50 a month tax on cable subscribers. The new tax is estimated to raise $60 million a year, which will be allocated to a new Local Programming Improvement Fund.

Oh, they will sell it as a fee from cable and satellite providers, but we all know it will be us poor subscribers who pay the freight. At the end of the day, who else is there?

It never ends, does it? Every time we turn around we are forced to subsidize someone or something in our so called culture industry. The end result is inevitable: poor on-air product.

After paying billions in tax to fund CBC every year so that we can receive left-wing biased programming that most Canadians pass up for American shows, we now have to reach into our pockets one more time to prop up companies that feed us a lot of crap with only a few gems (mostly US-sourced) thrown in.

When will our Conservative government start governing like conservatives?

[Read the full announcement here.]

CHRC: does the PM get it?

Does Prime Minister Stephen Harper really get how insidious the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s (CHRC) application of section 13 (1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act is? Ezra Levant seems to think he does, but I am not so sure.

Levant, well known free speech advocate, has the PM answering CFRB Brian Lilley’s question about human rights agencies in Canada. Levant also provides a pretty good line-by-line analysis of the PM’s words, and seems to be quite encouraged by what he heard.

I heard what the PM said and read Levant’s analysis and came away still wondering whether Harper is likely to support something like the Keith Martin’s—the Liberal Party member of parliament for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca—private member’s motion M-446 to delete Section 13 (1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

A few days ago, I wrote to my local Burlington MP, Mike Wallace, and the PM hoping to add my small voice to the outrage that is felt by many because of the damage being done to our democracy by Section 13 (1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act. We need this section deleted.

I support Ezra Levant’s suggestion that we give Prime Minister Harper “…encouragement, and let him know this is an important, non-partisan issue, an issue about our basic Charter rights. His staff will notice 100 e-mails on the subject. Let’s send him 1,000 today.”

You can write to the PM here:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cabinet shuffle

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a major cabinet shuffle today, including (major appointments only):

  • Lawrence Cannon to Foreign Affairs
  • Tony Clement to Industry
  • Jim Prentice to Environment
  • John Baird to Transport
  • Jim Flaherty remains in Finance
  • Peter MacKay remains in Defence
  • Gail Shea got the Fisheries Ministry
  • Lisa Raitt becomes the natural resources minister
  • Stockwell Day to International Trade
  • Peter Van Loan to Public Safety
  • Jason Kenney to Citizenship and Immigration
  • James Moore takes over Heritage
  • Rona Ambrose to Minister of Labour
  • Diane Finley to Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development
  • Rob Nicholson to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
  • Greg Thompson to Minister of Veterans Affairs
  • Chuck Strahl to Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians
  • Vic Toews to President of the Treasury Board
  • Gregory Francis Thompson to Minister of Veterans Affairs


Jean-Pierre Blackburn moves from Labour to National Revenue and Senator Marjorie LeBreton remains as Government leader in the Senate.

The cabinet also includes seven Ministers of State, who are sworn to the Privy Council and are allowed to participate in some cabinet committee meetings.

That list includes Helena Guergis for Status of Women; Diane Ablonczy for Small Business and Tourism; Rob Merrifield for Transport; Lynne Yelich for Western Economic Development; Steven Fletcher for Democratic Reform; Gary Goodyear for Science and Technology; Denis Lebel for Quebec economic development; Keith Ashfield for Atlantic regional development and Peter Kent for Foreign Affairs (Americas).

Full cabinet here.

School board attacks Halloween

Today I read that the Toronto District School Board is attacking our Halloween tradition because, among other things:

  • it is a religious day of significance for Wiccans and therefore should be treated respectfully;
  • the images and icons associated with consumer-oriented Halloween can come into conflict with some students’ and their families’ religious beliefs; and
  • many recently arrived students in our schools share no background cultural knowledge of trick-or-treating or the commercialization of death as ‘fun.’

This is the sort of silly nonsense one comes to expect in a community that fosters multiculturalism. This is political correctness gone mad.

Is Wiccan even a serious religion? And anyway, Wiccan’s preach “Do as ye will, as long as ye harm none.” Well, what real harm does Halloween do? And if Halloween comes into conflict with some students’ religious beliefs, then they can opt out and not participate.

As to the concern that many recently arrived students do not share a knowledge of trick-or-treating, so what? As with many other things about Canada, we can teach them about it and they can then make an informed decision as to whether they will participate.

Quebec demands shared values from immigrants

According to the National Post, Quebec Immigration Minister Yolande James has announced a policy that will require future immigrants to Quebec to sign a declaration promising to learn French and respect Quebec’s “shared values.”

The shared values are:

  • Quebec is a free and democratic society;
  • church and state are separate;
  • Quebec is a pluralist society based on the rule of law;
  • men and women have equal rights; and
  • rights and freedoms are exercised while respecting those of others and the general well-being.

Also stressed is French as the official language. Signatories will declare their intention to learn French if they do not already speak it. Ms. James said:

“Once our new Quebecer has got off the plane at the airport, she will follow a course on how to live in Quebec, how things work here, what the socioeconomic realities are.”

The issue of integrating cultural and religious minorities has been an important though emotional topic in Quebec for some time now, and I am pleased that Premier Jean Charest has put some official policies in place to address it.

The people of Quebec are understandably proud of their traditions and values and are taking action to protect and preserve them. If only our federal and Ontario governments would do as much to protect traditional Canadian values and not allow them to be washed away by a flood of immigrants with far different traditions and values.

Just today I read that the Toronto District School Board is attacking our Halloween tradition. What sort of country are we going to have when all “common” traditions and values are gone? Is it any wonder that many Canadians identify primarily with “not being American?” They have no other identity to espouse. Soon none of us will.

Liberal leadership: which horse to flog

It is difficult for me to watch a political race from the sidelines without trying to pick the winner, and the current race to replace Stéphane Dion is no exception.

I try to look at the candidates from two points of view: their chances of winning and their ability to lead our country as a future prime minister.

Front runners in my book are Michael Ignatieff, the party’s current deputy leader, and Frank McKenna, the former New Brunswick premier. But McKenna announced Tuesday that he would not be a candidate so that leaves Ignatieff alone in the early lead.

Ignatieff is bright and thinks quickly on his feet—a far better politician than Dion. His choice to live outside Canada from 1978 to 2005 will work against him, however, as will his age—he’ll be in his mid-sixties in the next general election. I think this Harvard PhD would make a capable PM leading a party of the political centre and is my personal second favourite.

Next in line are Toronto MP Bob Rae, a former NDP premier of Ontario and John Manley, a former deputy leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Rae probably has too much political baggage after a disastrous term as NDP premier of Ontario in the early 1990s. His age—a year younger than Ignatieff—is also like to work against him. I’d be very surprised if he won.

It is far from certain whether John Manley will declare himself a candidate. But if he did, he would be the best man for the job and is my personal favourite. He is a fading political memory, however, and many Liberals will never forgive him for chairing a panel on Canada’s future in Afghanistan. His report was widely praised, but to many Liberals, he sold out to the Conservatives when he accepted the appointment.

Toronto MP Gerard Kennedy, a former leadership candidate and New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc, who has all but officially declared his candidacy will make respectable showings and solidify their power base inside the party.

I would chose LeBlanc over light-weight Kennedy, and he might be the one who will come up the middle and win.

LeBlanc has served in parliament since 2000, and is generally considered to have done a good job. He served as Defence Minister and so has cabinet-level experience.

Toronto-area MP Martha Hall Findlay may try again. She is a darling of the MSM so can count on wide and sympathetic coverage from them. She’s unlikely to win, but will increase her internal power base among the ex-Dion hard-core supporters.

Other potential candidates are Justin Trudeau and Ruby Dhalla. Trudeau’s day will come, I’m sure, but not this time. As to Ruby Dhalla: she is by far the weakest of the potential candidates. This woman lacks virtually every element needed to successfully lead a major political party, never mind a G-8 country. I saw her several times on the Michael Coren Show and, believe me, she’s far from ready for prime time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

UK adopts “prevent agenda” to battle the threat of terrorism

In what the British government is calling its “prevent agenda toolkit,” teachers are being called on to monitor pupils’ behavior and inform the authorities—including police—if they suspect teenagers are being drawn into violent extremism.

Apparently, the original version of the toolkit only identified “Islamist extremism” and al Qaeda in particular, but has been amended to include far-right groups after complaints from teaching unions during consultation.

Some British teaching unions have expressed concerns about the onus put on teachers to decide what amounted to violent extremism. “…teachers are not trained to deal with radicalization. We're not spy-catchers,” a spokesperson explained.

I do have sympathy for this view, however, these are difficult times which require action from all corners of our society if we are to overcome the threat of violent extremism.

Our young people have become a target of extremist groups, who are seeking to recruit and exploit them. Schools have an important contribution to make in the battle against such groups.

I wish our governments would show this sort of leadership. It won’t happen, of course. Our left-wing teachers’ unions would never permit it, and Canadian governments lack the backbone to force them to do so.

U.S. may hold talks with Taliban

Diplomacy may still be alive and well under the George W. Bush administration.

Voice of America reported yesterday that:

“State Department officials say the United States is considering contacts with elements of Afghanistan’s militant Islamic Taliban movement, as part of a broad Bush administration review of the conduct of the Afghan war. The review is expected to be completed after the U.S. presidential election.”

After the U.S. made contact with Sunni tribes in Iraq, who had been initially hostile to the U.S., the tribesmen turned against al Qaeda and drove that terrorist organization out of the country—a strategy known as the Awakening Council movement. A similar U.S. overture to Taliban elements willing to reconcile with the Kabul government could help in the battle with extremists in Afghanistan, and especially foreign Islamist extremists, i.e., al Qaeda.

Sounds like we are starting to use of heads, finally.

[Related info.: Voice of America]

Terrorists walk among us

Mohammad Momin Khawaja, a young computer programmer from an Ottawa suburb, has been convicted of five terrorism related charges.

Khawaja was arrested on March 29, 2004 at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, where he worked on contract. He was the first Canadian to be charged under our country’s Anti-terrorism Act. This represents the government’s first major terrorism conviction since 9/11.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Douglas Rutherford ruled that Khawaja was part of a terrorist group of Islamist extremists who wanted to bomb targets in Britain. Five British Muslims were convicted last year in the foiled bomb plot and are now serving lengthy prison sentences.

This case was considered a test of our Anti-terrorism Act, which expanded the application of the Criminal Code to a wide range of terrorism-related activities following 9/11. And the fact that the Act stood up in court should provide some measure of comfort to those of us who believe Islamist extremism continues to be a serious threat to our country.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Section 13 (1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act

It seems that the hammer used to attack free expression through our human rights agencies is Section 13 (1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA).

Section 13 (1) says in part that:

It is a discriminatory practice … to communicate … any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

The original purpose of Section 13 (1) of CHRA was to overcome discrimination; not to censor speech. That was then, but despite best intentions, it now seems that Section 13 (1) is being used by minority groups and human rights agencies to control the expression of opinion and emotion.

Apparently and bizarrely so, truth is not a defence to a complaint under Section 13 (1) of the CHRA, even though such defences are available in tort actions. The rationale is that the prohibition on discrimination is concerned with adverse effects, not with intent.

Keith Martin, the Liberal Party member of parliament for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca has introduced a private member’s motion, M-446, to delete Section 13 (1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act. As I understand the situation, however, a political party must take up M-446 and support or it will languish without a vote.

The damage being done to our democracy would seem to be obvious to anyone reading our newspapers—the Mark Steyn/Maclean’s and Levant cases were widely publicized—so I hope this issue will soon be championed in parliament.

Ezra Levant endures another chill of “lawfare”

Free speech advocate Ezra Levant reports today on his blog that a libel suit has been filed against him in which he is being sued for $50,000 by Warren Kinsella, who has been variously described elsewhere as a Toronto lawyer, Liberal Party insider, blogger and author of Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics.

Levant describes the suit as a “SLAPP,” a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Wikipedia defines SLAPP as:

“… a lawsuit or a threat of lawsuit that is intended to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Winning the lawsuit is not necessarily the intent of the person filing the SLAPP. The plaintiff's goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate.”

Reading Levant’s blog entry, one does get the impression that the suit is an attempt to bully rather than a good faith attempt to defend a reputation. However, I’ll leave the courts to make the final assessment on that.

I have followed Levant’s trials and tribulations with the “human rights industry,” as he calls it for some time now. He is a lawyer himself and has a wide following among those of us who believe that Canada’s human rights commission and tribunals are making a mockery of our freedom to speak freely without censorship or limitation.

Section 2(b) of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that:

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: ... freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.

And the the Supreme Court of Canada has stated that a wide and inclusionary approach to the interpretation of the Charter’s free expression guarantee is to be preferred.

Incredibly and shamefully so, these fundamental human rights and Charter guarantees of ours are under attack by minority groups within our society and by our own government agencies.

Fortunately for Canada, stalwarts like Ezra Levant are in the vanguard of a small force of defenders. Theirs is a time-consuming and costly battle, however, and we can only hope that reinforcements in the form of government legislation will arrive in time.

Surely freedom of expression is at the very foundation of our democracy. What more noble cause can there be for our politicians to take up and fight for on our behalf?

Quebec election on Dec. 8

If, as expected, Premier Jean Charest, leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, calls an election next week, Quebec voters will go to the polls on Dec. 8.

Recently, Mr. Charest blasted Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ) Leader Mario Dumont and the Parti Québécois (PQ) Leader Pauline Marois for failing to co-operate on an economic plan and instead pitching ideas unrelated to the struggling economy.

Mr. Dumont has promised efforts to have the Canadian Constitution reopened to recognize Quebec nationhood, while Ms. Marois has told her party that she wants to renew efforts to sell sovereignty. Unwelcome news for Canadians, especially after the recent federal election when federalist parties were soundly defeated by the Bloc Québécois (BQ), Quebec’s sovereignty party.

Liberals hold a slim minority in the Quebec National Assembly. Standings at this point are:

  • Liberals: 48
  • ADQ: 39
  • PQ: 36
  • Vacant: 2

The ADQ, Quebec’s conservative party, has faltered recently. After a strong showing in the 2007 election campaign—in which it took 21 seats from the Liberal Party and and 15 seats from the PQ—bypassing the PQ to become the Official Opposition, the ADQ suffered major setbacks in 2008. It lost four consecutive by-elections by substantial margins, and MNAs Pierre-Michel Auger and André Riedl switched from the ADQ to the Liberals on Oct. 23.

In any event, I’m not sure this group has quite found themselves and are prepared to govern the second most populous province. Another term or two as a strong Official Opposition will stand them in good stead and allow them to build out their team in anticipation of forming the first Quebec conservative government since 1970.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Monique Jérôme-Forget will unveil an economic update. And, by Wednesday of next week, Mr. Charest is expected to call on the Lieutenant-Governor to dissolve the National Assembly and trigger the second provincial election in only 20 months.

Will the GOP ever offer another Ike?

Given how far to the right the Republican Party has shifted, I wonder if Dwight D. Eisenhower, the thirty-fourth President of the United States, could win the Republican nomination these days?

Whatever happened to the Republican Party of the centre-right? The party of conservatism and moderation that welcomed those who believed in small government, low taxes, saving, hard work, family values and individual freedoms?

Could Ike have found a place in a party led by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney? A party of warmongers in which arrogance and ignorance flourish. A party in which conservative economics has been replaced by greed and corruption. A party that has been hijacked by a bunch of rich fat-cats with deep and enduring connections to the military industrial and petroleum complex. Some of the very characters Ike warned the American people about in his 1961 Farewell Address to the Nation, in which he cautioned:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Americans have, by and large, ignored President Eisenhower’s sage advice and are now suffering the devastating consequences at home and abroad.

Modern-day Republicans have embraced religious fundamentalism to the point that today over 40 per cent call themselves born-again Christian fundamentalists, whose core foreign policy goal is to recreate Biblical Israel, a precondition for the return of their Messiah.

The Republican Administration’s excesses have brought disgrace on America by their lies about Iraq, endorsement and use of torture, political assassinations, Guantanamo Bay detainment camp, Abu Ghraib, secret prisons, kangaroo military courts, spying on US citizens and undermining the US Constitution. Such appalling policies and behavior have made the United States an object of hated around the globe.

Adding to this plethora of sins, Senator McCain and Gov. Palin have shamefully stoked lingering embers of anti-black and anti-Muslim hatred and fear among the Republican base, to the point that the mere presence of a Muslim middle name, in the view of many, makes a man unsuitable to become president.

America needs the return of a moderate Republican Party, freed from narrow-minded religious ideology, that will return the nation to its former democratic values and decency. A party that will embrace Ben Franklin’s maxim that there is no such thing as a good war, or a bad peace.

Place in the leadership of such a party a man like Ike. One who possesses intelligence, courage, honesty, honour, human decency, modesty and plain speaking. A leader with a world view, who will denounce racism and Islamophobia and who will speak for educated, worldly city-dwelling Americans as well as for Americans who live in the rural heartland.    

What a winning combination that would be. And what an America such a party would govern—one respected and admired around the world.

I respected and admired Senator John McCain during his 2000 candidacy, and believed he could have made a fine president back then. But, in the current campaign, he McCainhas shown dreadful judgment in picking Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate, and by  surrounding himself with advisors like Senator Joseph Lieberman, lobbyists like Randy Scheunemann, neo-conservatives like Elliot Abrams and other extremists who played key roles in getting America entangled in the destructive foreign affairs mess in which that country now finds itself.

Fortunately, in 2008 we have Barack Obama. He’s a decent, intelligent man who is both eloquent and plain speaking. He’s no Eisenhower, of course, and he’s no conservative, but he’ll have to do until another Dwight D. Eisenhower comes along.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Post Nov. 4: what’s in store for Sarah Palin

Assuming the polls hold and the McCain-Palin ticket is not successful on Nov.4, what then? After her exposure on the national stage, will Gov. Sarah Palin be content to return to  Alaska and relative political palinobscurity?

My guess is that she’ll need something more. Something that keeps her in front of a national audience and acts as a launching pad for a run at the Senate in 2012 and another run at the White House after that.

They’ll no doubt be some rough weeks for her immediately after the election (if, in fact, she loses), for Senator McCain’s people will try and shred her to divert blame from themselves as they try to salvage their own political reputations. But by mid-2009 she should be ready to move onwards and upwards.

The 44-year-old former beauty queen and self-styled hockey mom has captured the public’s imagination in a way no politician has since Senator Barack Obama. Now I’m reading reports that producers and agents are discussing possibilities for capitalizing on her celebrity, ranging from syndicated television talk show to cable news or a radio talk show.

Ms. Palin is wildly popular with the Republican base and just as unpopular with left-leaning Americans. One can only imagine the viewership this love-hate response to her would generate. In fact, we got a taste of this from the double-digit gain in ratings her appearances on Saturday Night Live and CBS Evening News generated.

There is a problem, however. Based on the presidential campaign, Ms. Palin doesn’t seem to wear well over an extended period of time. Once her novelty faded her appeal seems to have decreased. But perhaps this is just one more indication of the ineptness of the GOP campaign.

With careful “handling,” and mentoring I’d bet Gov. Palin could maintain her popularity indefinitely. She’s tough and she’s smart, and there is some recent indication that she’s her own person.

The 2000-version of McCain defends progressive tax system

The 2000-version of Senator John McCain defends the progressive tax system in the following video. In 2008 he and Gov. Sarah Palin have slammed the progressive tax system as economic socialism. Ms. Palin in a recent speech even suggested it leads to communism and might create a country "where the people are not free."

The 2000-version of Mr. McCain was worthy of support and, for me, was clearly a better choice for president than George W. Bush. That was the steadfast, fair, straight-talking, maverick, man-of-the-people candidate, and a refreshing contrast to the extremism and cowboy politics of the Bush administration.

Just watch and listen to him in the video and recall how impressive he was back then. Where did that John McCain go? He would have been a perfect choice in 2008 for a small "c" conservative like me.

But Mr. McCain underwent a significant change—by 2008 he seems to have sold out to the most extreme and unattractive elements of the GOP. Too bad, for America is the looser.

Could we have another 1948 Dewey-Truman voter swing?

Could we have another 1948 Dewey-Truman voter swing? Sure we could, but, with Senator Barack Obama's lead in the polls widening rather than narrowing, the odds of it happening seem remote.

Support Senator John McCain was counting on from Latino and Jewish voters now seems to be favouring Mr. Obama. Rural voters—the traditional conservative core of the Republican Party—also seem to abandoning Mr. McCain. The Denver Post published a poll last week that declared Mr. Obama had 46 per cent of the rural vote in 13 battleground states surveyed, to 45 per cent for Mr. McCain.

Even Mr. McCain's choice of running mate, Sarah Palin, ended up shooting him in the foot. In an ABC News poll last week, 52 per cent of likely voters said they were less likely to vote for Mr. McCain because of his choice of Ms. Palin.

So what would it take to turn Mr. McCain's campaign around in the last week? Something has to happen before Nov. 4 that causes tens of millions of voters to shift away from Mr. Obama. A new war, perhaps, or a major scandal involving Mr. Obama.

There is another scenario, of course, that is somewhat painful to contemplate: a substantial swing among white voters who discover they can't vote for an African American. (In a New York Times/CBS poll last week, one-third of likely voters said they knew someone who would not vote for Mr. Obama because he is black.) However, such racism would have to defeat Senator Obama in virtually every battleground state.

I believe that for better or worse Senator Obama is most likely to hang on to his lead and win on Nov. 4. The Democratic machine is more sophisticated than the GOP's and is fueled by $600 million plus that Mr. Obama has raised to date, and by several thousand volunteers.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pakistan steps up pressure on foreign militants

The BBC reports that the Pakistani Army has taken the village of Loisam in the Bajaur tribal region of northwest Pakistan. Major General Tariq Khan of the Pakistan Army said that nearly 1,500 insurgents and 73 security personnel have been killed in the offensive. The BBC, however, were unable to independently verify this information

Bajaur is one of seven semi-autonomous ethnic Pashtun regions in northwest Pakistan, where al Qaeda and Taliban have been expanding their influence in recent years.

The village of Loisam is on a cross-roads and controls access to three of four nearby valleys. Its capture is expected to disrupt communications and infiltration routes used by foreign militants. Loisam has been a base for hundreds of foreign Islamist militants, including Afghans, Chechens, Uzbeks and Tajiks. And Taleban raids into Afghanistan are regularly launched from the area.

The Pakistan parliament has been taking a harder line recently against their country being used to launch attacks on Afghanistan. This offensive against Loisam is the latest success in an operation that began in early August.

Pakistani authorities are encouraging Pashtun tribesmen to revive traditional militias known as lashkars, to take on the militants and secure areas captured by the army. A similar strategy to the Awakening Council movement in Iraq, in which Sunni tribesmen have risen against al Qaeda and driven them from their neighborhoods with help from the Iraqi government and US military.

The tribes of Bajaur supported the Islamist guerrillas in the 1980s in their battle against Soviet forces occupying Afghanistan. But, as one tribal elder remarked, the new generation of fighters had brought nothing but trouble: "Enough is enough."

The US$150,000 wardrobe

I find it rather tedious to listen to the lame defense of Sarah Palin's acceptance of a US$150,000 wardrobe for herself and her family.

Supporters of the McCain-Palin ticket are trying to make it seem acceptable for a self proclaimed defender of Joe Six-pack and a "Hockey Mom" to be making public appearances in outfits costing thousands of dollars.

Gov. Palin does not have to wear jackets costing $3,000 or more to look nice. Sarah Palin in a complete outfit costing no more than $500 would be very presentable. (What was she wearing for her last campaign as governor?) I know women who dress for less than that when going out to various functions and they receive complements on their taste—and these are middle- to upper-middle-class moms.

Many Republicans who call themselves conservatives aren't; they are elitists who have no real idea how the average American lives. The average American household earns about $60,000 and spends less than $2,000 annually on clothes. Multiply that by 30 times and you should be able to outfit a family very well for a less than six-month campaign.

A family wardrobe suitable for any election campaign could be had for about US$60,000 or so. That would be the conservative way, not the way of elitists.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Palin needs a lesson in basic economics

Shouldn't someone explain to Sarah Palin that merely supporting a progressive income tax system, as Barack Obama apparently does, does not make a person a socialist? Virtually every Western nation, including the US, employs progressive income tax systems and have done so since the early 1900s.

And in any progressive income tax system, the wealthy pay more than the middle class which pays more than the poor.

In other words, such a tax system shares the wealth.

Imagine the Republican Party presenting this woman to the American people and the world as a potential future president. Her naiveté about international issues is appalling. Her mindless willingness to parrot Republican mumbo jumbo is disappointing.

Negotiations between the Taleban and the Afghan government?

Zahidullah Mujahid, an official Taleban spokesman, has denied reports of peace negotiations, but Saudi officials say a meeting between representatives of the Afghan Taleban and the Afghan government did take place recently in Saudi Arabia.

Although no actual negotiations seems to have occurred, talks about talks are enough to offer some hope for a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan and provoke alarm in some quarters.

Although many are convinced that the Taleban are not the kind of people who would sell out al-Qaeda in exchange for political power, there is a growing fear among some hardline supporters that a peace deal could lead eventually to al-Qaeda losing its foothold in the region.

Sunni tribesmen, Iraqi nationalists, ex-Baathists and others—backed by US and Iraqi government money and troops—drove al-Qaeda out of Iraq in a campaign known in some circles as the Awakening. However, al-Qaeda continues to have a number of bases in Pakistan’s tribal territories along its border with Afghanistan.

If Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his NATO allies chose to use such a strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, any deal between his government and the Afghan Taleban could potentially be bad news for al-Qaeda.

But good news for the rest of us.

[Source: BBC]

Canada will look to the EU in future

Just in time Canada is negotiating a closer relationship with  the European Union (EU). As wealth and influence flow from the United States (US) to China and the Middle East and the US Empire begins to lose its supremacy as the world’s sole super-power, Canada must explore it’s options and find other partners to ensure our future prosperity.

The US under President George W. Bush’s administration has became corrupted by its massive military power, financial fraud, waste of resources and greed. The Republicans under President Bush inherited a US$236 billion surplus, low inflation and a booming economy from the Clinton administration. That’s all gone in just eight years—squandered by financing two disastrous wars with loans from abroad and printing money like drunken sailors and cutting taxes for the richest Americans.

While President Bush and his puppet master, Vice-president Dick Cheney waged war for control of foreign oil, they have virtually destroyed the US economy. The US deficit stands at US$407 billion and growing; spending has risen 16 per cent and military spending is up 50 per cent, including wars in Afghanistan and Iraq costing US$1 trillion.  The size of government under President Bush has grown more than under any president since Johnson’s Great Society and Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Canada sends about 80 per cent of its exports to the US, representing about 60 per cent of our GDP. However, Senator Barack Obama seems poised to win the presidency on Nov. 4 and has committed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and that may not be good news for Canada.

The European Union is one of Canada’s oldest and closest partners. The relationship between Canada and the EU dates back to 1976 when a Framework Agreement was signed with what was then the EC, and is the EU’s oldest formal relationship with any industrialized country. This relationship has evolved over the years to become a strategic partnership.

Canada and the EU share common values of the most fundamental nature, and have enjoyed close historical and cultural ties. This is evidenced by the increasing frequency with which they vote together in international organizations—sometimes over 90 per cent of the time during sessions of the UN General Assembly—a clear demonstration of like-mindedness and shared belief in international multilateralism.

Canada and the EU already work closely together on many global challenges such as membership in NATO, climate change, energy and security and stability throughout the world. This co-operation encompasses a broad spectrum from research into alternative energy sources to providing police training in Afghanistan.

The EU, with a population of 500 million, is Canada's second-largest trading partner. In 2006 two-way merchandise trade between Canada and the EU was about $78 billion while two-way investment reached $263 billion. Not very significant figures when you consider the $626 billion in our two-way merchandise trade with the US and $497 billion in two-way investment.

Reducing trade barriers and liberalizing trade services would produce “gains” of about $22.5 billion for the EU and about $16 billion for Canada up until 2014, according to a joint Canada-EU study published on Oct. 16. Measured by GDP, Canada would gain the most, with a 0.8 per cent lift compared to 0.1 per cent for the EU.

Unlike NAFTA, a Canada-EU trade agreement would allow for Canadian and European workers to work in each other’s regions and allow for EU and Canadian companies to bid on government procurements on both sides of the Atlantic.

Full negotiations between Canada and the EU are expected to begin next year, with the launch of the deal coming as early as 2010.

Canada as a conduit between the world’s two greatest free-trade unions provides a seductive image.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Toronto’s TTC buses a bust

That union money pit they call the TTC in Toronto have gotten themselves in an expensive fix for buying unreliable hybrid buses.

The inept brain trust—I’m reluctant to call them management—at Canada’s largest public transportation service has saddled taxpayers with 275 hybrid buses and are on the hook to buy 120 more, each costing $234,000 more than the $500,000 it costs for a conventional bus.

In May, The Globe and Mail reported that a third of the rooftop lead-acid battery cells in use on the hybrids had worn out after about 18 months, despite a promised four-year lifespan.

TTC testing also has shown that the buses are using only 10 per cent less diesel than a conventional bus instead of the 20 to 30 per cent less that was originally promised. Apparently, the fact that Toronto has more suburban high-speed routes, where hybrid engines make less of a difference.

Toronto City Councillor Michael Walker is calling for the resignation of the councillors on the commission, and that the TTC officials that approved the bus purchase and the contract should be fired.

None of that will happen, of course. Incompetence of this nature seldom has such negative consequences in the Toronto municipal government and its various agencies. That’s just the Toronto way.

They’ll just whine to the provincial and federal governments about how hard done-by they are, and, of course, they will raise property taxes…again.

Grit leadership: One strike and you’re out

Stéphane Dion loses a single election and the Grits toss him aside. Yet others have lost elections and been allowed to stay on and fight another day.

How about Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff? They lost the leadership race which was won by Dion. How come they will be allowed to run a second time?

A double standard? Hypocrisy? Probably. Just another example of what passes as integrity, justice, principle or just plain fairness in the Liberal Party of Canada.

McCain turns on GOP

As Senator John McCain’s hopes for a win on Nov. 4 fade, he’s started to lash out in frustration at his own Republican Party. Here is a paragraph from The Washington Times:

Sen. John McCain on Wednesday blasted President Bush for building a mountain of debt for future generations, failing to pay for expanding Medicare and abusing executive powers, leveling his strongest criticism to date of an administration whose unpopularity may be dragging the Republican Party to the brink of a massive electoral defeat.

Such remarks must surely be unprecedented for a presidential candidate to make about his own party. The litany of past Republican/Bush policies and issues with which he disagrees and renounces is staggering, for example:

  • Spending;
  • the conduct of the war in Iraq for years;
  • growth in the size of government, larger than any time since the Great Society;
  • laying a $10 trillion debt on future generations of America;
  • owing $500 billion to China;
  • failure to both enforce and modernize the financial regulatory agencies that were designed for the 1930s and certainly not for the 21st century;
  • failure to address the issue of climate change seriously.

“We just let things get completely out of hand,” Senator McCain said in his repudiation of his own party’s policies during its rule in the past eight years.

Wow, Senator Barack Obama could not have said it better himself. According to Senator McCain, the GOP has screwed up for eight years, but he—the GOP’s candidate—is the only one who can clear up the mess the GOP made.

Some logic, eh?

[Source: The Washington Times Web site]

More whining from Elizabeth May

Leader of the Green Party Elizabeth May is at it again: whining and complaining about the recent federal election. We are getting used to these pathetic attempts to grab some media attention.

The National Post is reporting this morning that:

“Green Leader Elizabeth May urged the government Wednesday to repeal voting rules that she said kept Canadians away ‘in droves’ from casting ballots in the federal election because they didn't have the required photo ID. …

“‘This is a scandal in our country and we must address it,’ said Ms. May, who blamed the new rules for contributing to a record-low turnout in the Oct. 14 election.”

As usual Ms. May is making misleading statements. To vote in federal elections, one must be a Canadian citizen at least 18 years of age and must be able to prove one’s identity and address. What in the world is wrong with that?

Here are the rules from the Elections Canada Web site for proving identity:

Option 1

Provide one original piece of identification issued by a government or government agency containing your photo, name and address.

Option 2

Provide two original pieces of identification authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada. Both pieces must contain your name, and one must also contain your address.

Option 3

You can be vouched for by an elector whose name appears on the list of electors in the same polling division and who has an acceptable piece or pieces of identification. Both will be required to make a sworn statement. An elector cannot vouch for more than one person, and the person who has been vouched for cannot vouch for another elector.

These rules are reasonable and fair and should not prevent a single eligible Canadian from voting, and to suggest they keep Canadians away “in droves” from casting ballots is being mischievous or disingenuous.

The only “scandal” here is Ms. May’s whining and blaming everything on everyone except her own poor performance, and that of her Green Party, at the polls.

Not a single member elected in over 25 years and she finds herself and her single-issue party faultless. Pathetic.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Palin’s family makeover costs US$150,000

Associated Press today reported that:

The Republican National Committee spent about US$150,000 on clothing, hair styling, makeup and other “campaign accessories” in September for the McCain campaign after Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin joined the ticket as his running mate.

Wow, the Ms. Joe Six-pack wannabe sure knows how to spend. US Department of Labor statistics show that the average American household spends US$1,874 a year on apparel and services. At this rate the real Joe Six-pack’s family would take 80 years to spend what Ms. Palin has spent in just a couple of months.

A spokeswoman for the Republican vice-presidential candidate says the campaign will donate to charity some $150,000 in clothing and accessories the Republican National Committee has purchased for the Alaska governor.

And, of course, these are just the sort of “clothing and accessories” the average family who depends on charity will find useful and practical.

Yep, just ordinary folks who have come to Washington to end greed and corruption. God help America.

Ontario to run deficit

As Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty hinted earlier this week, the province will run a deficit of $500 million for the remainder of this year.

Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan made this announcement in the Ontario Legislature this afternoon and, of course, blamed Ottawa. He also blamed the surplus he says his party inherited from the last Tory government—Tories were last in power some five years ago.

When you lack talent, expertise and vision, you're not likely to solve difficult problems, so instead you blame others.

What a joke!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

McGuinty talks himself into deficit

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty seems to be talking himself into running a deficit.

“I've got 200,000 people who have lost their jobs, so now I'm going to shut down their hospitals? It just doesn't make any sense,” Mr. McGuinty said at a meeting of the Council of the Federation on Monday in Montreal.

“I think Canadians are ahead of us. I think they understand these are very challenging economic times, they understand that our revenues are going to go down, that we have to make some difficult choices,” Mr. McGuinty added.

I don’t like the sound of this. It smacks of taking the easy way out. Oh, I understand that deficits are sometimes unavoidable, but our current Ontario government seems not to like making hard choices and are far too apt to take the course of least resistance.

On March 23, 2006, the Ontario government released a budget which showed Interim 2005-06 program spending to be $76.2 billion. The corresponding figure for 2007-08 is $87 billion a 14% increase, well above the level of inflation.

Deficits increase the debt, and resulting interest payments reduce our ability to fund future programs. Annual debt charges in Ontario already exceed a staggering $9 billion—just a little less than we now pay for post secondary education and our justice sector added together.

And deficits are seductive. One inevitably leads to another as we saw back in the 1970s when Trudeau and another Liberal government were in power.

In March 2008, Scott Blodgett, Ministry of Finance wrote:

“The McGuinty government’s prudent approach to managing the province’s finances continues to produce positive results. … and is now on track to achieve its third consecutive surplus and post six consecutive balanced budgets between 2005-06 and 2010-11.”

Now, a little over six months later, our premier is talking about running a deficit?

My guess is there’s ample room to trim spending without having to shut down a single hospital—or school, for that matter. All we really need is a government with the talent, expertise and the will to do so.

May: Electoral system “dysfunctional”

Green Party leader Elizabeth May is whining again. This time she is bleating about our first-past-the-post system for electing MPs, which Ms. May describes as being “dysfunctional.” Her scheme is to use a form of proportional representation to elect candidates.

The Green Party could not get a single candidate elected after more than 25 years of trying, and so Ms. May wants to change the system to one that would guarantee seats for her party in the House of Commons.

I have no time for proportional representation, which would see MPs elected who could not win an electoral district. And, when asked the question in British Columbia and Ontario, voters rejected the proposal. Now let's move on, please.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Canada’s Victoria Cross

More than 1 300 Victoria Crosses have been awarded to the sailors, soldiers and airmen of the British Empire and British Commonwealth nations. It is awarded for an act of VictoriaCross conspicuous bravery, and is the highest award for gallantry in the presence of the enemy. Many recipients never lived to receive their medals.

In many parts of the Commonwealth, the Victoria Cross remains their highest award for gallantry; however, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have all adopted their own versions of the Victoria Cross.

Debates over its place within the Canadian Honours System in the 1980s and 1990s led to the creation in 1993 of Canada’s own version of the decoration.

Its place at the top of the Canadian Honours System remains secure.

When Stéphane Dion goes silently into the night, will he be alone?

When Stéphane Dion goes silently into the night, will he be alone? Or will those staunch defenders of his like Martha Hall Findlay follow him into political retirement?

DION PRIORITIES Since Stéphane Dion is said to have lost the election for the Grits because of his lack of leadership skills and ineffective campaign platform, why should those who helped elect him and shape the platform not be forced to also fall on their swords?

Martha Hall Findlay became the first leadership candidate to throw her support behind Stéphane Dion. And later she became the Platform Outreach Chair for the Liberal Party and traveled across the country to gather ideas for the upcoming electoral platform. I have seen her praise Dion to the skies on several occasions on such TV programs as the Michael Coren Show on CTS.

Now that the leader and the platform that she helped design has flopped, should she receive a free pass?

And how about Bob Rae and Scott Brison, co-chairmen of the Liberals’ platform development committee?

Bison’s Liberal leadership platform emphasised both environmentalism and economic reform calling for a “green” platform that included personal and corporate tax cuts to prompt business growth and curb pollution. Sound familiar?

It just seems so unfair that Dion is forced out, yet those who put him there in the first place and those who helped build the campaign platform can carry on without apparent consequence.

Only in Canada could the BQ receive government subsidies

Canada must be one of the very few countries on earth in which a party with the objectives of the Bloc Québécois (BQ)would receive government subsidies.

In Canada, any registered party that obtains at least 2% of all valid votes cast at a general election or at least 5% of the valid votes cast in the electoral districts in which it ran a candidate in a general election is eligible for an annual allowance equivalent to $1.75 per valid vote obtained.

As a result, the BQ will receive over $3 million dollars in 2008 federal government allowances to help it meet its objective of breaking up our federation. And, as incredible as it may seem, the majority of this subsidy comes from the pockets of taxpayers outside the province of Quebec.

Perhaps and even greater injustice is the fact that the approximately 60 per cent of people in Quebec who want their province to remain within the Canadian federation are forced—through the federal tax system—to help subsidize a political party that advocates taking Quebec out of the federation.

This is shameless nonsense.

Harper’s future as leader

Last Tuesday night, voters clearly chose Stephen Harper’s Conservatives to govern our country through these uncertain times. And the fact that the Tories had run a competent government in their first term gave voters the harper confidence to make this choice.

What is not nearly so clear is the verdict voters pronounced on Harper himself. Should the fact that he was restricted to another minority government, albeit a stronger one, be viewed as a personal defeat?

Prime Minister Harper has now led his party through three general elections, at least two of which could have been considered winnable. In 2004, the aftermath of the sponsorship scandal helped him reduce the Grits to a minority government. Some will argue that this election was winnable and polls did for a time support this contention. I remain unconvinced, however. The sponsorship scandal and other evidence of massive mismanagement by the Liberals was counter-balanced by the “greenness” of the Conservative team.

The new Conservative party had only been officially registered with Elections Canada on December 7, 2003, and Stephen Harper had only been elected leader on March 20, 2004. Two months later, Harper was contesting his first general election as leader of a six-month-old party. A win here would have been a tall order indeed. Two years later, he did win and formed a minority government.

In 2008, however, up against the weakest Liberal leader in my memory, Harper was unable to gain the majority mandate he had called the election to seek. Quebec, with its 75 seats, had let the Conservatives down by blocking Harper’s majority.

As PM, Stephen Harper had bent over backwards to appease the Quebec electorate, first trying to woo Liberal Premier Jean Charest and later moving his affection to Opposition leader Mario Dumont

The Conservative government had addressed the so-called fiscal imbalance and transferred billions more to Quebec, passed a Commons resolution declaring the province a nation within Canada and gave Quebec representation at UNESCO, the UN cultural agency.

Yet, in Quebec, the election was greatly disappointing. Conservatives were held to 10 seats, while the Liberals took 13 and the Bloc took 50. Conservatives also lost more than three per cent of their share of the popular vote.

Political analysts point to tough justice proposals for young offenders, federal budget cuts for cultural funding and Bill C-10, denying subsidies to films and TV productions “contrary to public policy” as being the turnoffs that caused the fickle, left-leaning Quebec voters to reject Harper’s party.

Should Harper now consider that—having exceeded expectations by uniting the splintered right into a party which has formed a competent government—he should now hand over the reins to someone able to take the party to the next level?

I do not believe he should, at least, not yet.

Our country needs a strong level-headed leader in these uncertain economic times. We also need a prime minister who has had some on-the-job experience. Stephen Harper is both those things.

Harper has the intellect and the statesmanship to lead Canadians to a more confident national identity—one with its own unique personality to the world and one that is more than not being Americans. He can help to establish Canada as the primary cultural link between Europe and North America and Asia and North America. He can enhance Canada’s position among second-tier nations and help us “punch above our weight” militarily and diplomatically.

Do this and our continued prosperity will be assured.

Before the next election, however, the prime minister must show us that he is able to delegate responsibility and share the spotlight better than in the past; that he can avoid rookie mistakes like needlessly offending artists and giving gratuitous investment advice; and that he is able to identify with a broader cross-section of Canadians to eventually earn greater trust and even the affection of voters.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Is May blaming the media for Dion’s defeat?

Here is a quotation from a Globe and Mail article:

“He’s [Dion] been treated shabbily. I think replaying re-asked questions in a second language over the national media is despicable,” she said. “I think people need to look to their own behaviour and say ‘How much did media attempt to manipulate this election so that a very good person might not win?’”

The Globe and Mail is purportedly quoting Ms. May’s words, which come close to slandering CTV by accusing them of attempting “to manipulate this election so that a very good person might not win.” That’s stretching the facts some, isn’t it?

Ms. May also is crowing that her 32 per cent of the vote in Central Nova is a new record for Greens. What this devious woman does not mention is that the second most popular party in Canada did not run a candidate against her and that she received an endorsement from that party’s leader.

Quite shameful actually.

Dion’s days as Liberal leader numbered

Several published reports, including this one, tell us Stéphane Dion is finished as Liberal Party leader. Some even suggest that leadership rival Michael Ignatieff was already preparing a run at the party’s top job.

With only a small power base within the party and after leading the Grits to their second worst defeat ever, it is difficult to see how Dion can convince enough supporters to back him at the automatic leadership review next May.

Mind you, Dion is a petty little man with a stubborn streak. During the campaign, he pledged that he would “never quit” and would “stay for my country.” Such people often are prone to being self-destructive. He’s likely to fight to stay on and tear the Liberal Party to pieces in the process.

Of course, the Liberal Party has financial problems and this could slow down the rush to show Dion the door.

How about newly-elected MP Justin Trudeau for the next leader?

Newfoundland and Labrador voters reject Conservatives

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams made his point with his ABC (anybody but Conservatives)campaign: Conservative were shutout in Newfoundland and Labrador’s seven ridings, as the federal Tories lost all three seats they had held.

The Conservative vote all but vanished in that province, falling from 43 per cent in 2006 to less than 17 per cent yesterday. Apparently, many Conservative voters stayed at home—Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest voter turnout in the country, with only 48.1 per cent.

“Newfoundlanders have opted to not participate in the federal government. We haven’t done anything like that since 1933 when we gave up our right to self-government in Newfoundland,” said Craig Westcott, a journalist who represented the Conservatives in St. John’s East.

Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec are the two most self-serving provinces in our federation. These two always have their hands out for more from the other provinces to bolster their own economies. And every time things don’t go their own selfish way, they respond by sulking and whining.

You can be sure that this latest childish display of pique on the part of Danny Williams and the voters of Newfoundland and Labrador will not be without serious repercussions.

Mike Wallace wins Burlington riding

Conservative incumbent Mike Wallace won handily in my local riding of Burlington, Ontario. Mr. Wallace beat out Liberal Paddy Torsney by almost 9,000 votes more than tripling his 2006 margin of victory.

This is a double loss for Ms. Torsney: a sharp rebuke from voters in her own riding and rejection of her political mentor, Stéphane Dion, by Canadian voters.

When all is said and done, this result tells me Burlington voters want representatives who have a Burlington-first attitude in Ottawa. They had that with the late Bill Kempling, and now again with Mike Wallace.

Ms. Torsney, it seemed to me, had a me-first attitude as she tried to further her personal political ambitions on the national and international stage. Burlington was only a means to some other personal political end.

2008 Federal election (preliminary) results:

Mike Wallace, Conservative, 28,469 votes, 48.4%
Paddy Torsney, Liberal, 19,524 votes, 33.2%
David Laird, NDP, 6,600 votes, 11.2%
Marnie Mellish, Green, 4,170 votes, 7.1%

2006 Federal election results:

Mike Wallace, Conservative, 28,030 votes, 43.1%
Paddy Torsney, Liberal, 25,431 votes, 39.1%
David Laird, NDP, 8,090 votes, 12.4%
Rick Goldring, Green, 3,471 votes, 5.3%

Congratulations, Mike!

Layton looses campaign, but gains seats

NDP leader Jack Layton lost his bid to be Canada’s next prime minister.

The self-styled straight-talker set the bar impossibly high for himself when he got carried away with his own self importance and tried to kid Canadians into believing his goal was the top job. In return, over 80 per cent of voters, again, gave Layton the status-free position of leader of parliament’s fourth and last opposition party.

Layton has been NDP leader since 2003 and has contested three elections as leader. He lost each of these elections, failing even to gain support from one in five voters. The job as leader of the official opposition was wide open in this election, but Layton was not up to the job.

For some time now, Layton has been claiming to be the “real” official opposition. But Canadian voters—over 80 per cent of them—has told Layton he is no such thing. His is just another fourth-ranked party who gained a few seats.

Prime minister indeed, what a joke!

Elizabeth May flops

Elizabeth May and the Greens have been rejected, again, by over 93 per cent of Canadian voters. For May, this was her second defeat personally at the polls despite being endorsed this time by Stéphane Dion.

For the Green Party, this was yet another in long string of rejections by Canadian voters since they were founded 25 years ago. Not a single member of that party has ever been elected.

Never in the history of our nation has so much favourable free publicity been given to a political party and its leader, with no tangible result at the polls.

The MSM has tried its best to force feed Canadians with millions of words praising Ms. May. They even suspended their collective common sense long enough to launch a concerted campaign to give her an unearned seat at the televised leaders’ debate.

But voters, sensibly, weren’t buying any of it.

Even so, Ms. May, like her Liberal mentor Stéphane Dion, seems inclined to hang on stubbornly to her leadership position. She’s like that old auntie who shows up on your doorstep one morning, moves in and tries to tell you how to run your house, and won’t leave when told she is not wanted.

Of course, her party membership might well remember how she abandoned them for a chance to help Stéphane Dion become prime minister.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

What has free trade and the GST done for Canada?

Brian Mulroney’s conservative governments gave us the GST and the free trade agreement with the United States, and Canada has prospered ever since.

Free Trade agreement (FTA)

Merchandise exports to the US were $100 billion in 1988, the last year before the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was implemented. By 2002, merchandise exports to the US had grown to $350 billion. Exports to the US as a percentage of our GDP has grown from 19 per cent to 33 per cent in just 15 years. Between 1993 and 2000, exports created four out of every five new jobs created in Canada.

Goods & Services Tax (GST)

The Federal Sales Tax (FST) of 13.5 per cent was contained in the selling price of goods manufactured in Canada and made goods more expensive since wholesalers marked up prices to retailers and retailers marked up those prices to consumers.

Under the FST most goods entering Canada were taxed at a rate of either 13.5 percent or 9 percent for construction building equipment. Importers actually had an advantage over Canadian producers as they paid the FST at a duty paid value at the border, thereby escaping the 13.5 per cent on their Canadian marketing and distribution costs. Therefore, the FST became a significant cost of doing business in Canada, and put Canadian producers at a considerable disadvantage.

The GST replaced the FST in 1991. Since then the GST system has been a factor in the growth of our exports and has provided a significant source of cash that allowed John Chrétien and Paul Martin to balance the books.

How good were the Liberals the last time they governed?

How good were the Liberals the last time they governed?

The IRPP (Institute for Research on Public Policy) considered this question when they ranked the best prime ministers of the last 50 years (see study here).

Brian Mulroney was the clear second choice after Lester Pearson, who was the winner.

Pierre Trudeau ranked third—behind Brian Mulroney—receiving high marks for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “but low scores for his mismanagement of the economy and the fiscal framework during an era that saw Canada’s federal debt increase by more than 1,000 per cent.”

Jean Chrétien finished fifth overall, though he did receive high marks for balancing the budget.

Where did the doctors go?

Jack Layton blames Stephen Harper for the shortage of doctors in Canada. But wasn’t it an Ontario NDP government led by Bob Rae that placed a cap on enrollment in medical schools? We are now reaping the seeds of wrong headed policies sown back then.

How can Stephen Harper reverse this sort of thing after only about 30 months in office?

Of course, after being rejected by the voters of Ontario, Jack Layton’s former golden boy, Bob Rae, is now providing his sage advice to Stéphane Dion.

The only time the NDP every got a chance to govern east of Manitoba, they made a monumental mess of things.

We trusted the NDP back then and they gave us the shaft.

Liberals’ lie: Grits would be better managers of the economy

Data from 1984 after Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Jean Chrétien left the cupboard bare:

  • The Liberals had run up a federal deficit of $38.5 billion, nearly nine per cent of GDP—the largest Canadian deficit ever, in terms of percentage of GDP.
  • The federal debt had increased by 1,100 per cent under the Liberals (ouch).
  • Interest rates had reached double digits, and at 22.75 per cent they were devastating to those on fixed incomes.
  • The Liberal government had been spending $1.23 for every $1.00 collected in tax, a disaster waiting to happen.

However, by the time the Liberals regained office in 1993, there had been a tremendous turnaround. Look at what a difference the eight years of Brian Mulroney and his conservative government had made:

  • GST replaced the terribly destructive Federal Sales Tax (FST)—a manufacturing sales tax that for years had been condemned by economists.
  • Free Trade between Canada and the US had been negotiated. The Liberals understood this to be of significant benefit to Canada, and broke their own campaign promise to scrap it.
  • The federal government had an operating surplus (before interest paid on the national debt created by the Liberals).
  • The deficit as a percentage of GDP had been reduced by one-third, despite the worldwide recession of 1990-91.
  • Given that the Tories had an operating surplus, were it not for the interest payments on the debt the Liberals had created up to them leaving office in 1984, the Tories would most likely have been able to leave a balanced budget.
  • The Mulroney government had cut program spending so that instead of spending $1.23 for every one dollar collected in taxes like the Liberals did, they were spending 97 cents for every dollar of tax taken in.
  • Interest rates fell from a peak of 22.75 per cent to six per cent, the lowest in 20 years.
  • The annual inflation rate was 1.5 per cent, the lowest in 30 years. In 1980, this rate hit a high of 13.58 per cent and was still at an unacceptable 4.30 per cent in 1984. And remember that the Liberals had ruled for most of the previous decade.

June 2, 2000, McGill University’s North American Studies Institute published an updated a 1993 study in which economist Tom Velk and historian A.R. Riggs concluded that Jean Chrétien’s economic record ranked worst of any prime minister since the Second World War. And that “[Brian] Mulroney's numbers were the best since Louis St. Laurent presided over the post-war economic boom…” (Source)

The researchers based their conclusions on a composite score of 18 components of the “misery index,” as devised by left-wing economist Arthur Okun, and later elaborated by right-wing economist Robert Barro.

The expanded misery index is the sum of several outcome rates, including inflation, unemployment, interest and exchange rates, taxes and deficits, income distribution, growth and productivity.

The authors explain:

“Our benchmarking is based, in part, on how a Prime Minister does given a situation he inherited, on the direction of change during his term, how well he does in comparison with contemporaneous American leaders, and whether his successful policies mark a lasting departure from those of the past.”

Mr. Chrétien, they contend,

“inherited an economy whose fundamentals were sound—low inflation, low interest rates, a shrinking government share of the overall economy, a relatively strong dollar and expanding trade.”

One of the tests of economic leadership, Velk and Riggs write, is whether

“a leader improves the situation he inherited from the previous government, and outperforms contemporaries in other nations.”

These are the sort of facts Stéphane Dion hopes the Canadian people won’t find out before Oct. 14.

Liberals’ lie: Tory government left them $42 billion deficit

Stéphane Dion repeatedly claims that Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin inherited a $42 billion deficit from former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

By his lie of omission, Dion is careful not to admit to Canadians that Mulroney inherited $38.5 billion of that deficit from the Trudeau and Chrétien Liberals. That $38.5 billion deficit was nearly nine per cent of the GDP—the largest deficit by far in the history of Canada in terms of percentage of GDP.

Add interest for the eight years while the Liberals were out of office, and it’s not so difficult to see that the Grits inherited their own deficit.

Here is how some others viewed the Mulroney years of majority conservative government:

  • In 2000, McGill University’s North American Studies Institute determined that Mulroney had the best economic record of any PM since the Second World War. (Source)
  • In 2003, the Institute for Research on Public Policy ranked Mulroney second among prime ministers of the previous 50 years. (Source)
  • In 2006, environmental groups, led by Green Party leader Elizabeth May, selected Brian Mulroney as the “greenest” prime minister in Canadian history.

New Poll from Sunday

A new Harris/Decima poll released October 12, shows the Conservatives and NDP flat, Liberals and Bloc up AND some lost ground for the Greens as we head into the last day of the election.

Nationally, over the last four nights, the Conservatives lead with 35%, followed by the Liberals at 26%, the NDP 18%, the BQ 10%, and the Green Party 9%.


In Ontario, the Conservatives are at 36%, the Liberals 32%, NDP 21%, and the Greens 10%. In Quebec, the BQ is at 43%, Liberals 23%, Conservatives 19%, NDP 9%, and Greens 4%.

In Atlantic Canada, the Liberals have 41%, Conservatives 24%, NDP 23%, and Greens 10%. In BC, the Conservatives have 42%, the NDP 24%, Liberals 20%, and the Greens 14%.


This sample represents a total of 1,256 interviews, gathered October 8th through October 11th 2008. The poll’s margin of error is 2.8%, 19 times out of 20.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

MSNBC coverage of report of Palin’s abuse of power

Here's pretty balanced coverage of the explosive report.

New poll show Conservatives recovering

A new Harris/Decima poll released October 11, shows the Conservatives recovering some lost ground as we head into the last two days of the election.

Nationally, over the last four nights, the Conservatives lead with 35%, followed by the Liberals at 25%, the NDP 18%, the Green Party 11%, the BQ with 9%.

In Ontario, the Conservatives are at 35%, the Liberals 32%, NDP 22%, and the Greens 11%. While, in Quebec, the BQ is at 41%, Conservatives 23%, Liberals 21%, NDP 8%, and Greens 5%.

The latest results represent 1,273 interviews conducted Tuesday through Friday with a margin of error of 2.7 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

This suggests that, should these numbers hold through to Oct. 14, Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party will win a strong minority or wafer-thin majority, and leaves Stéphane Dion’s Liberals fighting it out with Jack Layton’s NDP for official opposition status.

Dion zigs and zags with Green Shift

The Green Shift is, of course, Stéphane Dion’s plan for placing a tax on carbon-based energy while using a portion of the taxes raised to cut income and corporate taxes.

Stéphane Dion began his campaign with his Carbon Tax/Green Shift as the central plank in his Liberal Party’s platform. Then, when he could not sell the new tax to Canadians, he shifted course and began promising billions of dollars in spending programs and saying almost nothing about the Carbon Tax. But, when his platform was publicly released, there the Carbon Tax was again at its centre.

In the past week or so, Dion’s two most senior lieutenants, Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae, with increasing global economic uncertainty, began to waffle in public regarding the timing of a Carbon Tax implementation.

Now, in a bizarre turn of events, Dion says his government might sacrifice virtually all spending programs that he has pledged during the course of the campaign—such as child care, more doctors and nurses, and a catastrophic drug program—so as not to delay the start of the Green Shift and the imposition of controversial new taxes that are scheduled to raise some $40 billion over four years.

“We may have to slow down the pace of investments we wanted to make in the first two years ... we will catch up in the last years of our mandate,” Dion said.

Dion stubbornly uses European countries as his model for the imposition of a Carbon Tax, ignoring the significant factual differences that exist between them and Canada.

And Dion repeatedly misleads Canadians with his claim that similar taxes have been successful in these countries. This is simply not the case. The results in Europe have been uneven to say the least.

Since about 1991, carbon tax in one form or other has been implemented in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. However, I cannot find evidence that indicates the tax has led to large declines in carbon dioxide emissions in most of these countries. In fact, in the case of Norway, emissions have actually increased by 43 percent per capita.

Denmark is one country in which carbon taxes have led to a large decrease in emissions—per capita carbon dioxide emissions were nearly 15 percent lower in 2005 than in 1990.

But Canada is quite different than Denmark and I believe it is far too risky to be implementing a new tax experiment at a time like this.

Take, for example, British Columbia which implemented a similar tax earlier this year. The result has become a confusing mix of policies and propaganda, to the point now where the unpopularity of B.C.’s carbon tax is apparent in the polls and has helped the opposition NDP increase its support above the ruling Liberals for the first time in years. 

The rest of our country should sit up and take note.

Dion’s gaffe on CTV

Last Thursday, CTV’s Atlantic interviewer Steve Murphy asked Stéphane Dion: “If you were prime minister now, what would you have done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done?”

After Mr. Dion stumbled and bumbled for several minutes and asked to restart the interview twice because he did not understand the question, the interview continued without further incident.

Initially the station agreed not to broadcast the false starts, but then later changed its mind. The interviewer explained to viewers that “on reflection, CTV news believes we owe it to you to show you everything.”

Later, Mr. Dion was asked about the interview. The Liberal leader said he found it “difficult to understand” the question. “I wasn't sure about the time.”

Yesterday in Burlington, Mr. Dion made light of his gaffe.

“Ask me what I would have done if I was prime minister two and a half years ago,” he said.

He said his government would have retained the $3-billion contingency fund, invested in research and development, in universities, in students, energy efficiency, the manufacturing sector and made “the right” tax cuts. “If the question comes, that's what I would have answered,” he said.

Some of Mr. Dion’s supporters have said that his hearing is impaired, others have repeatedly said how well he functions in parliamentary committees. Which is it? Does he suffer from impaired hearing or not? And if indeed his hearing is impaired, why hasn’t he done something about it by now?

And as for the Liberals chastising the prime minister for making disparaging remarks about the interview, give me a break. This campaign has been filled with personal attacks on Stephen Harper. He has been demonized by the opposition. It has been open season on the man, and with no boundaries of good taste, and by many who hardly even know the prime minister personally.

Yet Stéphane Dion makes a gaffe on TV and then whines when he’s ridiculed for it—pathetic little man that he is.

This episode clearly demonstrates that despite whatever other virtues Mr. Dion might possess, he does not have what it takes to be prime minister of a predominantly English speaking country.

Investigation: Palin abused power

An investigation by Alaska’s legislature has concluded that Gov. Sarah Palin abused the powers of her office when she pressured subordinates to press for her former brother-in-law to be dismissed from his post as a state trooper.

In a report released by state lawmakers on Friday, it was found that Palin had herself exerted pressure to get Trooper Michael Wooten fired. She also allowed her husband and subordinates to do the same. The report states: 

“Such impermissible and repeated contacts create conflicts of interests for subordinate employees who must choose to either please a superior or run the risk of facing that superior’s displeasure and the possible consequences of that displeasure.”

The report concludes that the action was a violation of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.

I can hardly wait to hear how John McCain and the GOP will spin this one.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Where are you on the Investment curve?

Investment curve

Statistics put a lie to Stéphane Dion's claims of doom and gloom

Liberal leader Stéphane Dion has been trying his best to panic Canadians into voting for his party on October 14. Apparently though the statistics don’t support his claims about how poorly the Canadian economy has been doing under Stephen Harper's stewardship.

According to a Statistics Canada report, the Canadian economy produced a record 107,000 new jobs in September, which supports Harper's message that Canada’s economic fundamentals remain strong.

This was the biggest one-month employment gain in at least 30 years.


Globe and Mail endorses Harper

The Globe and Mail, usually a Liberal Party supporter, today endorsed Conservative Stephen Harper and his party. The Globe and Mail writes:

"…Mr. Harper has governed moderately and competently for nearly three years. He has not taken the country in dangerous new directions or significantly eroded the capacity of the government to act.

"On balance, Mr. Harper remains the best man for the job in the tough times now upon us."

The Globe and Mail added that Liberal leader Stéphane Dion, is a "man of great integrity and tremendous courage" but is not up to the task of leading the country.

I'll second that!

New polls: Conservatives strengthen lead

An Ekos poll released today, covering Tuesday through Thursday, has the Conservatives winning 36 percent of the popular vote, the Liberals 24 percent and the NDP 19.

This would put Stephen Harper's Conservatives back near majority territory.

By comparison, a Harris-Decima poll covering Monday through Thursday puts Conservatives at 34 percent, Liberals at 26 and NDP at 18. An earlier Nanos poll covering Monday through Wednesday put the Conservatives at just 33 percent, the Liberals at 29 and the NDP at 20.

Ekos surveyed 2,934 decided voters, with a 1.8 point margin of error 19 times out of 20. Harris-Decima interviewed 1,284 people with a 2.7 point margin of error, and Nanos surveyed 1,031 committed voters with a 3.1 point margin of error.

Stéphane Dion tries to explain meltdown

Dion tries to explain away his Sarah Palin-like meltdown.

Stéphane Dion melts down on CTV

Stéphane Dion struggles with interview question.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

May endorses strategic voting

The Green Party leader is endorsing the idea that, in ridings with close races, Green supporters should abandon their own candidate and cast a vote for another party—so long as it isn’t Conservative.

Apparently, May despises the prime minister to such an extent that she’ll sacrifice her own party’s chances to help Stéphane Dion become prime minister.

Last night on CBC TV, Peter Mansbridge asked Dion repeatedly if there will be a place for Elizabeth May in his government, should he win the election. Dion dodged the questions and refused to say there would not be.

I predict that May will deliver an all-out endorsement of Mr. Dion's Liberals before October 14.

You can read more here.

Immigration: an election non-issue

Why is immigration a non-issue in this election?

The economic doom and gloom forecast by Jack Layton and Stéphane Dion stands in contrast to their silence on how they expect we'll be able to absorb another 260,000 plus new immigrants in the next year. And remember, this is over and above the 200,000 or so temporary foreign workers in Canada in any given year.

If things are as bad as these two claim, where will the jobs come from for these new folks?

Immigration is, of course, one of our taboo subjects—not to be touched with a ten foot pole. And especially not when you are in ethnic communities pandering for votes. And since attempts to open a debate on this subject are often answered with charges of racism, we should not be surprised that politicians shy away.

Jack Layton said yesterday, “Pensions are at risk, your savings are at risk, even your mortgages and housing are at risk and your jobs are risk.”

Yet into this environment he wants to invite 260,000 new Canadians. In fact, Jack Layton wants immigration to rise to over 300,000. How responsible is this?

Given the outlook of economies around the world for the next couple of years, isn’t this a good time to have some sober second thought about the levels of immigration we are experiencing?

According to the abstract from a study by professor Herbert Grubel of Simon Fraser University:

“…immigrants on average have lower incomes than comparable Canadians even after 10 years’ residence in Canada. As a result of the low income, the progressive income tax structure of the Canadian welfare state and the universal availability of government benefits results in substantial transfers from other Canadians to these immigrants. A tentative estimate of these transfers to immigrants who arrived between 1990 and 2002 values them at $18.3 billion in 2002.”

As Prof. Grubel points out, this amount is more than the federal government spent on health care and twice what it spent on defence in the 2000/2001 fiscal year.

This staggering figure is even more than one year of Stéphane Dion’s proposed Carbon Tax.

I suspect there are a lot of things Stéphane Dion and Jack Layton are not telling us.

Layton crosses the line with scare tactics

In Edmonton yesterday, NDP leader Jack Layton made some of the most irresponsible assertions every made by a major political leader.

Incredibly, Layton is reported to have asserted:

"Pensions are at risk, your savings are at risk, even your mortgages and housing are at risk and your jobs are risk. And everybody knows it and we all can feel it."

Layton offered not one iota of hard evidence, instead he substituted "…we can all feel it." Is he claiming some sort of second sight?

Of course, Layton hopes the unfortunate events occurring in other countries will slop over into the Canadian economy so he can get some votes out of it. The person has no shame.

This is propaganda of the worst kind, the sort that was practiced in totalitarian states such as the former Soviet Union. And the really sad fact is that it has a record of being effective.